Posted June 25, 20204:30 pm
Hazel Remesch, Esq., Supervising Attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, is the 2020 recipient of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association’s William K. Thomas Professionalism Award. The award was presented at the CMBA’s Annual Meeting, held this year over Zoom on June 25.
Hazel has made a name for herself at Legal Aid as a committed advocate for people facing housing crises and is the leading force behind Legal Aid’s Housing Justice Alliance.
In 2018, Hazel won a competitive grant from the Sisters of Charity’s Innovation Mission project to fund research on the landscape of evictions in Cleveland. Her ultimate goal was to advocate for a right to counsel in Cleveland eviction cases, based on a law passed by New York City in 2017. After completing her research, Hazel wasted no time putting together a coalition of stakeholders to promote this progressive policy. This group became known as the Housing Justice Alliance (HJA).
Under Hazel’s leadership, the HJA grew in size and influence. City councilmembers Kevin Kelley and Anthony Brancatelli joined, and within months they had introduced a bill to establish a right to counsel for poor families in Cleveland facing eviction. The law was passed within the year – on September 30, 2019.
There is no doubt that every family who benefits from this law has Hazel to thank.
Every year, 9,000 evictions are filed in Cleveland. The vast majority of tenants facing eviction are not represented by legal counsel. Studies have shown that tenants who receive full legal representation in eviction cases are more likely to avoid displacement and save on rent or fees.
Cleveland’s right to counsel law specifies that families at or below 100% of the federal poverty guidelines with at least one child in the household will be entitled to legal representation when facing eviction in Cleveland Housing Court. The law takes effect July 1, 2020. Based on past court data, it is estimated 3,000 low-income renters in Cleveland will benefit from this new law each year.
It is difficult to understate just how impactful Hazel’s advocacy on housing justice has been. Without her vision and conviction, Cleveland’s right to counsel law would simply not be a reality in 2020.
CMBA President Ian Friedman praised Hazel’s remarkable achievement and “steadfast pursuit of moral justice” as he presented her with her award. “The ripple effect will last for generations,” he said. Then, speaking directly to Hazel, he added: “Your passion could be felt by all. You drove this.”
Congratulations to Hazel on this well-deserved honor.
Visit www.lasclev.org for more information on our work to extend justice throughout Northeast Ohio.